Renewed Fighting in Israel Kills Civilian and Soldier

conflict in israel

Israeli Soldier, Palestinian Man Killed in Renewed Fighting

ISRAEL (RushPRNews) 01/27/09-Renewed fighting on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip has killed one Israeli soldier and one Palestinian man.The fighting began Tuesday when a bomb planted by Palestinian militants exploded near Israeli soldiers patrolling the Israel-Gaza border near the Kissufim crossing. One Israeli soldier was killed and three others were wounded.

Israeli troops backed by helicopters then crossed into Gaza and exchanged fire with militants, killing the Palestinian.

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The incident is the most serious since Israel and Hamas militants controlling Gaza declared unilateral cease-fires on January 18 after a three-week Israeli offensive against the group.

The fighting erupted as U.S. President Barack Obama’s new Middle East envoy was due to start his first peace mission to the region with a visit to Egypt. George Mitchell also is expected to travel to Israel, the West Bank, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak called today’s bomb blast unacceptable, and vowed a response. Hamas officials did not claim responsibility, but accused Israel of provoking the violence.

Israel later closed its crossings with Gaza, preventing humanitarian aid from entering the territory.

Aid agencies have urged Israel to ease its blockade on Gaza to allow more aid to reach the territory’s impoverished people. They say supplies also are needed to allow Gaza to rebuild following the destruction caused by Israel’s offensive.

Egypt also restricts traffic across its border with Gaza. Israel has said it will maintain restrictions on the entry of goods into Gaza to prevent them from benefiting Hamas.

In Washington, President Obama said Monday his envoy will have a vigorous engagement with parties in the region to try to achieve what he called genuine progress toward peace.

Mr. Obama also said Mitchell will discuss how to solidify the cease-fires declared by Israel and Hamas, and how to tackle the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

In another development, Egypt has proposed mediating reconciliation talks between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah on February 22. Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, ousting Fatah forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and confining his authority to the West Bank.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.